The 15 best DS games of all time

15. Pokémon Black & White

333Radical overhaul and Pokémon aren’t typically words that go together, but Game Freak did at least attempt to inject numerous new ideas into its hugely successful series. The most obvious is the new battle mechanics that have been introduced and it’s now possible to throw out three Pokémon at once for scraps to create a formidable line-up. Rotation battles are similar, but allow you to rotate your cute critters at will, to give you a better chance in battle. Aesthetically the games are a big improvement over Diamond and Pearl and there are numerous new sidequests and cool new mini-games. Pokémon games have always been ambitious in their scope and Black & White set new standards for Junichi Masuda and his team to improve upon.

14. Chrono Trigger

555While we don’t typically like to feature remasters in lists such as this, every gamer needs to experience Chrono Trigger as it’s one of the best JRPGs of all time. While the DS version is rapidly rising in price, it’s still a far cheaper alternative to the best nds roms release and features numerous enhancements, too. It features all the extras from the later PlayStation port, makes great use of the DS’s touch screen controls, boasts a default run option, and numerous other quality of life tweaks. It’s the perfect way to enjoy Square’s impressive time-spanning adventure and is one of the best RPGs to be found on the system.

13. Tetris DS

Aside from its simplistic and evergreen game mechanics, one of the greatest strengths of Tetris is just how versatile it is. This 2006 release from Nintendo SPD marries the popular tile-rotating game to some of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises and the end result is one of the system’s best puzzlers. There are six distinct modes that range from the standard version of Tetris to fun offerings like Mission, which requires you to complete specific challenges in a certain amount of time, and Catch, which has you blasting Metroids while manipulating a central tile. It’s all augmented by an excellent multiplayer mode, meaning Tetris DS is a game that will last you for ages.

12. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Capcom’s series remained consistently solid on DS and the first five made it to the west (only Ace Attorney Investigations 2 was a Japanese exclusive). We’ve chosen the original game not just because it introduces many of the characters who will constantly crop up in the later games, but also because it’s a solid improvement over the GBA original (which was also a Japanese exclusive) and has some excellent cases. The courtroom battles have always been a highlight of the series and you’ll feel tremendously smug when you’re able to trip your opponent up and prove that they’re telling you a pack of porkies. Best of all however is the final case which fully utilizes the capabilities of the DS to make you feel like an actual detective as you investigate crime scenes.

11. Kirby: Canvas Curse

Some of the greatest DS games are those that treat popular franchises in new and interesting ways and Kirby’s first adventure on the system is a perfect example. Rather than directly control the lovable pink blob, you instead use your stylus to create rainbow paths to guide him through each stage. You only have a limited amount of ink to create paths, so you need to ensure your reserves stay full by managing Kirby as effectively as possible. Enemies are also dealt with via stylus abuse and you’ll soon find yourself frantically rubbing and poking the screen so you can reach the next stage. The end result is one of the most inventive games in the series.

10. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

The third game in Level-5’s popular puzzle series remains the best one to date. Professor Layton and Luke’s new adventure doesn’t just impress thanks to the cleverness of its puzzles, but also in their sheer diversity. There are over 160 different puzzles here for the pair to solve, which will have you tackling everything from number-based conundrums and visual-based headscratchers, to simple sliding puzzles and cerebral logic ticklers. Even if you do find certain puzzles too tricky to manage there’s a generous hint system in place which means you’re never too far away from enjoying the excellent unfolding story at the heart of the game.

9. Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow

All three Castlevania DS games are worthy of your collection, but Dawn Of Sorrow is the one we continually return to the most. While its touchscreen uses are poorly implemented (you draw seals to finish off bosses) everything else is pure Metroidvania and it’s a worthy follow-up to the GBA hit, Aria Of Sorrow. Protagonist Soma Cruz returns and so too does the Tactical Soul system, which has been enhanced in numerous ways so souls can be also traded in to upgrade and create new weapons.

8. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

In addition to creating the Phoenix Wright games, Shu Takumi also bamboozled gamers with this excellent adventure. Protagonist Sissel is an amnesia-stricken spirit and it’s your task to discover what happened to him as you traverse both the Ghost World and the real world. Being a spirit Sissel has to rely on inanimate objects to move around in the Ghost World, but he can also possess corpses and even question them to learn clues about their deaths. Once armed, he has four minutes to go back and potentially prevent them from dying. It’s a neat mechanic and Sissel can perform similar feats in the real world where he can use his tricks to manipulate events that will help progress the excellent story.

7. Bangai-O Spirits

The DS is very underserved when it comes to shoot-’em-ups but it does have this wonderfully chaotic offering from Treasure to even things out. Everything about Treasure’s game is absolutely crazy, from its absurd plot to the insane amount of missiles that can fill the play area when things get heated up. It effortlessly blends hardcore shooting with clever puzzles and constantly keeps you on your toes with inventive curveballs that ensure no two levels ever feel the same. And when you do get bored of the 160-odd stages that Bangai-O Spirits throws at you there’s the option to create your own, cleverly encode them as sound files and then share them with others.

6. New Super Mario Bros.

As Nintendo continued to push Mario’s 3D games to outrageous new heights, his traditional side-on adventures fell by the wayside. When New Super Mario Bros made its debut in 2006 there hadn’t been a mainline side-on game since Super Mario World in 1990. You soon forget that lengthy gap once you dive into the game’s cleverly constructed levels and discover delightful new power-ups like the mega mushroom that causes Mario to increase in size, destroying anything he comes into contact with or the Mini Mushroom that shrinks him down and is essential for reaching certain levels. It’s a brilliant return to form for the popular plumber and 30 million copies were sold as a result.

5. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

The DS has a huge number of great RPGs, but none of them can compete with the brilliance of Nintendo’s dynamic duo. Alpha Dream’s achingly funny adventure continues to build on the combat mechanics introduced in the earlier games but mixes things up by introducing Bowser as a playable character, who doesn’t realize that Mario and Luigi are carrying out their own adventure inside his body via the bottom screen. It’s a superb set-up for a game and the action routinely switches between the two screens as the trio attempt to take down Fawful. Filled with inventive touches – enemies Bowser inhales are then sent to the Mario brothers to fight – and blessed by a razor-sharp script, Bowser’s Inside Story is the most fun you can have on Nintendo’s dual-screen console.

4. Advance Wars: Dual Strike

Dual Strike gets its moniker because it’s the first game in the series to let you take two Commanding Officers (or COs) into battle. It also introduces a wide range of new units, including the powerful Megatank, adds a number of new COs to the roster, and even lets you wage war across both screens during certain battles, which makes them even more strategic as a result. All the original game modes return, including the continuation of the story introduced in the GBA games, as well as two new modes: Survival and Combat.

3. Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan

We’ve seen the DS stylus used in a number of unique ways, but using it to power the skills of a cheerleading squad is easily one of the most entertaining. While many rhythm action games are content to simply let you bash buttons in time to the rhythm of a song, Ouendan’s design goes a step further as you use your stylus to follow patterns and tap different areas of the screen.

2. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Only Rockstar would have the stones to ship a drug deal simulator on a Nintendo console. Even more impressive is the fact that Chinatown Wars’ sideline in drug peddling is just that, as the main drive of Rockstar’s game is a polished revenge story focusing on Triad member Huang Lee who is left for dead in the game’s explosive opening and must retrieve the family heirloom that was stolen from him. Chinatown Wars not only features some truly memorable missions, but it also makes excellent use of the DS, from using the stylus to break into vehicles, to whistling into the DS’s mic to hail a cab.

1. Mario Kart DS

Nintendo’s fifth main game in its popular series introduced a number of firsts that helped it stay ahead of the competition. It was the first game in the franchise to allow players from around the world to battle each other (although it wasn’t always the smoothest of experiences), new items like the Bullet Bill and Blooper make their debut and there’s a fun new battle mode.